At a time when he could have been forgiven for cutting loose, Eamonn Fitzmaurice chose not to.
And so he chose to plead the fifth when asked to assess the performance of match referee David Gough. Plenty of other managers in Fitzmaurice’s situation would have went nuclear but he wasn’t for budging.
The free count favoured Dublin 22-13 and Gough chose to ignore Kevin McManamon’s hit on Peter Crowley in stoppage time, with Kerry a point down.
When asked if he was surprised that Kerry weren’t awarded more frees, Fitzmaurice replied: “To be honest, I made a decision coming down the corridor I’m going to bite my lip, because if I say anything that becomes our reaction — which isn’t the reaction.
“The reaction is that Dublin are an outstanding team and I don’t want to be looking at the paper tomorrow or Tuesday and it saying “Fitzmaurice said this about the ref” or whatever.” And when quizzed specifically on the Crowley-McManamon incident, Fitzmaurice urged people to make up their own minds on it.
He added: “I’m going to bite my lip on it. I’ll leave it. I’d prefer not to say anything. Ye saw it yourselves. Ye are all smart guys — ye can make up your own mind. I don’t want that to be the story, to be honest.”
Fitzmaurice also explained that his decision to take off in-form Paul Geaney three minutes from time, and replace him with Marc Ó Sé, was for tactical reasons.
He said: “We took him off because Dublin had pressed up at the time. We’d been playing with a sweeper and needed to get another back on. It was a tactical change.”
In the coming weeks and months, the focus of attention will centre on Fitzmaurice and his own intentions — and those of his more experienced players.
Decorated trio Kieran Donaghy, Aidan O’Mahony, and Marc Ó Sé may decide to slip into retirement while Colm Cooper’s display yesterday suggested there’s still magic in the boots, even though he’s 33.
But Fitzmaurice insisted: “Today definitely isn’t a day to be thinking about it. There will be a lot of emotion, disappointment after that effort to come up short again.
“I’d encourage the lads again to relax, it’s time to take stock they can make a decision again in their own time.”
As for his own situation, Fitzmaurice agreed to an extra year following last September’s All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin.
He’s been four years in the role now but reflected: “Again, that’s for another day. I was only hoping to win today and be here again in three weeks’ time.”
If he does decide to step down, he’ll do so as a 2014 All-Ireland winning boss.
But Dublin have had the Indian sign over Fitzmaurice and this group of Kerry players — claiming championship victories during his tenure in 2013, 2015, and again yesterday, all at the business end of the season.
Fitzmaurice said: “We faced it with Tyrone in the last decade, they beat us three times in a row and we had to go back and we beat them the fourth time in Killarney and we beat them last year in the semi-final.
“This Dublin team is a different proposition. Like I said already, they are outstanding champions.
“Any team to have gone unbeaten as long as they have; particularly after winning the All-Ireland last year and having won a couple of All-Irelands in the last while; its seriously impressive.
“We threw everything we had at them today and it wasn’t enough.”
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